Enemy Held Territory
|Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it that He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force; we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have though much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else -something it never entered your head to conceive- comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.
(C. S. Lewis The Case for Christianity.
Coming to know God requires submission to His way-higher authority. This is Vertical. After submitting to Jesus, we have many issues to be worked out in life--Horizontally.
Lots of people in every generation enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But most default to Carnal Christian Living (CCL) and no one in their generation receives any benefit.
Occasionally a mass murderer (Geoffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy), or a very evil tyrant (Napoleon), or a bad pope is reconciled to Jesus at the end of his or her life. They leave a horrendous trail of debris but go to heaven.
Many dying persons receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, draw their last breath and die well, at peace with God at last. They were saved. The whole package of their lives will be sorted out later.
All of us are without excuse: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18-20)
Most professing Christians in this first category, live out their natural lives, for all practical purposes, in Adam, not in Christ. This is one of three great deceptions in the world! Most Christians ignore Jesus after they have been "saved" by Him. A few in every generation understand that He is running the whole universe and they see that it's wise to cooperate!
The first martyr of the Christian church, Stephen, was stoned to death after giving an impassioned message on the history of Israel before the leaders of the nation. He saw “Jesus standing at the right hand of God” which would seem to contradict earlier evidence in the Book of Acts that Jesus was then “seated at the right hand of God.” Stephen’s last words suggested he would “time travel” to the Rapture upon taking his last breath. When He receives His Bride, we would expect Jesus to rise from His throne to welcome her.
Stephen said in part.
“However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:
‘Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the Lord,
Or what is the place of My rest?
Has My hand not made all these things?’
“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:48-60)
They will make it! "The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable." (Romans 11:20) Actually no one gets into New Jerusalem without a major rebuild.
"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now
'If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?'
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator." (1 Peter 4:17-19)
Then, there is our full performance review for all of us at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This may involve suffering and loss.
“For we are God’s fellow workers (synergos); you are God’s field, you are God’s building (oikodomē) According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear (phaneros); for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed (apokalyptō) by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Corinthians 3:9-23)
The eyes of the LORD are in every place,
Keeping watch on the evil and the good.
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
A fool despises his father’s instruction,
But he who receives correction is prudent.
In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
But in the revenue of the wicked is trouble.
The lips of the wise disperse knowledge,
But the heart of the fool does not do so.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,
But the prayer of the upright is His delight.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,
But He loves him who follows righteousness.
Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way,
And he who hates correction will die.
Hell and Destruction are before the LORD;
So how much more the hearts of the sons of men.
"We do not live our own lives.
We live the life of another--or, more accurately, another lives His life through us.
Until we grasp that as the key to the mystery of Christian living,
we have not graduated from the kindergarten level of the Christian life."
The Exchanged Life
Christ in You
How Saved Are You?
We accommodate our present entrapment in linear, historical time by saying a person “falls asleep” at death. "Asleep in Jesus” is engraved on many tombstones. The actual dying Christian undergoes an immediate transformation of his or her body and arrives at the Rapture “in a twinkling of an eye.” The Rapture is overdue now but could happen today.
Ray Stedman notes: “A vivid picture, is it not? It is noteworthy to see how God stands by his faithful martyr here. Stephen's eyes are opened, even in the presence of the council, and he sees the Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. It is my conviction that every believer who dies sees this event, that when a believer steps out of time into eternity the next event waiting for him is the coming of the Lord Jesus for his own. Here Stephen sees him waiting to step out and receive him in a few moments, when he will be taken out of the city and stoned to death. This is the sight that greets the eyes of those who fall asleep in Jesus, and Stephen sees it. He prays to him in words that echo those of Jesus himself on the cross. Jesus had prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," (Luke 23:34). Stephen says, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, and do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Many more details about the end of the age we live in are found in the New and the Old Testament. The time of the end for us gentile-world nations will be marked by God turning His attention to the tiny nation of Israel. He will fulfill all His promises to them as a new age dawns on earth. Jesus Himself will reign over all the nations (as King of kings)—from Israel.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29-31)
At the Rapture Jesus will come from high heaven where He is now, to lower heaven, the atmospheric heaven, in THE Cloud, the Shekinah, which evidently serves as a cloaking device during the Tribulation period. This will occur at a definite point in history, but unannounced in advance. Yet believers in Jesus experienced meeting Jesus in heaven as they were dying. They seem to have traveled horizontally outside of earth-time to arrive at the calender date the (vertical) rapture will happen in earth-history. For time travelers arriving at the Rapture from the past, the Rapture will appear horizontal--the consummation of history plus their vindication and reward. Those alive on the date of the Rapture will experience a vertical rapture. Every follower of Jesus Christ gets to heaven at the same time. See If The Rapture Happened Today.“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep (died previously) lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
From Ray Stedman: “...widespread is the hope in Scripture of the coming of Christ again to this earth. This is what we pray for when we pray in the Lord's prayer, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The hope that God himself will dwell among men, and mankind itself will be his dwelling place. He "shall wipe away all tears from their eyes," and then shall be introduced and fulfilled all the glorious dramas and visions of the prophets. If there is any one truth, therefore, that we ought to hold clear and sharp in our minds, it is this great hope of the coming again of Jesus Christ.
Most people, I have found, think of this as a single point of time, a great event which will occur within a reasonably brief period of time. They think this mean Christ will visibly appear, come again to this earth, stand upon it, and beginning at the Mount of Olives will begin to reign throughout the earth, and they feel this is a single great event; one event seen throughout the earth. But a careful study of many Scriptures, both Old and New Testament alike, raises certain questions about that. One question is, "Where does the prediction of Paul in I Thessalonians, chapter 4, verses 16-17, fit in when he describes the Lord 'coming with a shout and the voice of the archangel and the sound of the trumpet and the church being caught up together with him in the air?'" This is a very clear description. It is one that has often been quoted and has resulted in describing this event as the "rapture" of the church. Now, the word rapture (harpazo) does not appear in the passage, but it comes from the Greek word which is translated here "caught up." The Latin word for that is "rapere." It is from that that we get our English word rapture. It literally means "to snatch away." I remember during the days of the Jesus movement the hope of the rapture was called the "Great Snatch." I don't think many of them knew what the Greek word meant, nevertheless, they were right on when they described it that way. It is the great catching away of God's people to join the Lord in the air, not on earth, in the air, and as Paul adds, "so shall we ever be with the Lord."
Now, when does that occur, and how does it fit with this sudden appearing of Jesus Christ in great power and glory with flaming fire taking vengeance? There are many question raised here. Another question that that passage awakens in our hearts is, "How could Christ's coming be preceded by unmistakable great signs in the earth, signs in the heavens, darkening of the sun and of the moon, signs on the earth, distress among nations, terrible events in the political and economic world, and at the same time be described as a coming ‘like a thief in the night’ with nobody anticipating him. How could that be? Surely after the fulfillment of visible dramatic signs anybody who has ever had a Bible at all, or known anything about it, would be expecting Christ's return. It could hardly come, then, as an unexpected event, coming as a ‘thief in the night.’ This raises some questions.” (Ray Stedman, The Coming King of Kings).
See also: From Presence to Unveiling also by Ray Stedman, The Seven Churches in New Jerusalem
A couple of thousand years ago an obscure teacher in Israel announced to his disciples that he would build his assembly, his church, his ekklesia. He was not talking about a synagogue, a fraternal order, or a major corporation--so his announcement must have sounded incongruous to his students. Yet they readily followed him to their deaths and became martyrs to his cause in the decades after their teacher departed.
Fast forward two thousand years: Is there any evidence that what Jesus had announced He would do would ever come to pass?
One huge world wide very rich institution has long claimed that the Apostle Peter was commissioned to be the first head of that body. But Peter was killed in Rome about 30 years later along with the Apostle Paul, and no church entity or building would appear on earth until nearly 300 years after Peter and Paul were executed. Nevertheless, thousands of ordinary people in the Roman Empire became followers of Jesus in the first three centuries, and obviously many more down to today. No one man-made institution in the world can claim to be the church Jesus is building!
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”This passage has been debated and analyzed for centuries! It seems reasonable that there is indeed a play on words here between the Greek words Petros and petra. This position is well known. The likely meaning of "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" is more subtle. The keys are evidently not a reference to temporal power and authority. They are keys to what Jesus would do, in the invisible realm, for 2000 years ("the heavenlies"). Jesus is obviously alive and well now, seated at the right-hand of God.
So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, (Petros) and on this rock (petra) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. (Matthew 16:13-20)
My friend and colleague, Bryce Self comments,
"See our recent discussion of Shebna vs Eliakim in Isaiah 22 re: Jesus in Revelation 3 to Philadelphia — the key of the house of David. The kingdom of David was, at least by intention, the proleptic (initial & partial) expression of the Kingdom of God. Jesus will fulfill this completely when He finally sits on the throne of His father David in Jerusalem, to rule the nations. This is the biblical setting in context of origin and teleology of the concept for allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.
"This understanding must inform what Jesus says at Caesarea Philippi in response to Peter’s confession. The meaning cannot be relates to later traditional rabbinical excommunication from the synagogue, an idea in wide circulation at present. Nor does if have to do with spiritual warfare, casting out demons,and binding spiritual principalities and powers—another popular idea. Jesus is responding to Peter but addressing Himself to the entire Twelve, speaking of their future stewardship in being the foundation of the Church, especially in critical times of Holy Spirit-inspired initial/ultimate decisions like the Jerusalem conference of Acts 15."
See Three Stewards over God's House: Shebna, Eliakim, and Jesus
Could it be that the true church has really been "under construction" silently and invisibly all this time? Yes, surely! Is it possible Jesus said what He meant and meant what He said? Yes, Jesus has in fact been building a glorious invisible cathedral of people to be unveiled at the end of the age. The Administrative task of managing His entire church has been no problem for Jesus. We just can't correlate the present workings of God behind the scenes very well with unfolding events in history. When Jesus takes the wraps off the finished product everyone will see. The true church will number perhaps one or two billion men, women and children, all with glorious new, immortal bodies, "A glorious church without spot or wrinkle."
To understand what Jesus has been building consider the seven symbols the New Testament uses to describe how Jesus has been at work for 2000 doing exactly what He said He would do.
The true church Jesus is now calling out of the world, is symbolized in the New Testament by seven figures:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. (John 10:1-18)
Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (John 15:1-8)
"Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord, Through which the righteous shall enter. 'I will praise You, For You have answered me, And have become my salvation.' The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made;Our Lord Jesus is also described as a merchant who finds and buys a single pearl of great price
We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalms 118:19-24
"Therefore thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not be in haste. Also I will make justice the measuring line, And righteousness the plummet; The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, And the waters will overflow the hiding place. (Isaiah 28:16-17)
“Come to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.' Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,' and 'A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense. They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.“ (1 Peter 2:4-10)
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45)
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)
"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father." (1 Corinthians 12:12-18)
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased." (Ephesians 2:11-18)
“...For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2)
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:22-27)
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west...” (Revelation 21:9-13)
If a generation is about 40 years, then 50 generations have elapsed since Jesus walked the shores of Galilee. During that time, world population has increased from about 300 million in the First Century to more than 7.8 billion now. We can make a rough estimate of how many people will be in the finished church which Jesus is now calling out of the world. World population at the time of Jesus was about 300 million persons. Presently nearly 8000 million (8 billion) live on the planet. Assuming a generation is 40 years, about 23000 million (23 billion) people total have been born, have grown up and have died, in the past 2000 years. If we arbitrarily suggest 10% of the people per generation come to know Jesus and are "saved," a church of 5 billion members is reasonable.
(The Church is the gentile Bride of Christ whereas Israel is a separate group -- namely, she is the "wife of Yahweh." God has always brought people to Himself from the beginning. But this is a separate discussion.)
The Church apparently will live an orbiting City, New Jerusalem, with plenty of room there for everyone. Jesus Himself went on ahead to prepare a place for His Bride. The church is men, women, children, from every tribe and nation and from 50 generations, so how Jesus will manage this group remains to be seen. One suggestion is that the City may be divided into something like "parishes."
Please note that the “dead in Christ will be raised first” —-
"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."
There will be a large group of us believers waiting on earth when the day of the rapture takes place. Today with 7800 million people on earth, if 10% know Jesus, then the waiting remnant might be 780 million people or so. We may not be missed down below, however. The major news sources may not take note of the fact that our troublesome minority group has disappeared! Some will probably say that an alienation abduction took place.
If the Rapture were to happen today we’ll be meeting in person those mentors and teachers we knew from the previous generation before ours. We'll also meet all the followers of Jesus down through history who died before us! This may not be completely a "public" event since God respects our individual, privacy integrity and "space."
Our entry into New Jerusalem will be preceded by an evaluation procedure, the Judgment Seat of Christ. It won't be about sin--it's a performance evaluation and awards event.
The resurrection of the dead in Christ is called the “First Resurrection.” It is led by Jesus Himself. He has already been raised.
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-21)
For followers of Jesus today, we know Jesus was raised from the dead three days after Passover AD 30. He ascended to heaven 50 days later and is there now. He has a new body at present.
Everyone who knows Jesus now has a new body already prepared and ready--which he or she puts on when Jesus returns.
"But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord
When any person “dies” physically the person (soul and spirit) exits earth time and “instantly” time travels to the next scheduled event in the unseen realm. In thinking about this, forget for a moment our usual understanding of time. Events in the spiritual realm are not simultaneous with events in history for a time traveler. In linear time as understood by an observer trapped on earth, the Rapture and The Judgment Seat of Christ are understand as ~1007 years apart. A non believer, upon dying, does not enter limbo, a waiting room and stay there for the interval in history between his physical death and the Last Judgment. The physical body is what locks us into earth time. At death we (soul and spirit) shed the body and time travel to our next appointment. The destination we time travel to is different, of course, depending on whether we know Jesus or not. New bodies of one kind or another are already waiting us at our final destination. Concepts such as limbo, purgatory, an intermediate-state body, soul-sleep, waiting rooms, holding pens, or long delays in transit come about because we don't avail ourselves of revelation from God concerning the unseen realm.
Jesus said to the thief on the Cross “this day you will be with me in Paradise.” The forgiven thief was immediately there at the destination, along with Jesus, as soon as he died. The Greek New Testament word Harpazo (rapture), by the way, means to seize by force! See Also: Portals. Time Warps.
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-9)You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned." The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear." But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.
You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken --that is, created things --so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:18-29) Commentary by Ray Stedman
Eyes Fixed on Jesus: You Are Baptized into Christ (How can you be unbaptized?)Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6)Therefore:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.“ (Colossians 3:1-17)
"I beg you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God,
which is your reasonable service.
And do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:1-2)
"Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness” and again, The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3:11-23)
Wholeness of Person
A Wasted Life (2 Kings)
The Wasted Years (Sodom and Gomorrah)
Five Steps to Maturity
The Scars of Sin
The Abounding Life
The Abundant Entrance
Blessings Without Measure
Notes from Ray Stedman: We must be careful to understand it in relation to the parousia, the presence of Jesus, which has been going on since the Church was taken out of the restrictions of time before the end of the age began. This flaming advent is part of the parousia, actually the event that marks the end of the secret presence. It is the outshining of his presence before the eyes of the whole world. What he has been in secret to his own during the dark days of the tribulation, he now will be openly before the whole world. He will especially manifest himself to the Lawless One. Paul says, "The Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming" (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
That last phrase, "his appearing and his coming," is literally, "the epiphany of his parousia." Epiphany is a word that means unveiling, or outshining. Taken in that sense, Paul is calling this dramatic appearance of Jesus Christ, "the unveiling of his presence." It is the startling climax of the whole period which Jesus calls "the close of the age."
Notice that the Lord Jesus distinctly separates this event from the Great Tribulation. The tribulation will be essentially the manifestation of the naked brutality of man, the exhibition of the cruelty and unbelievable violence of the human heart unrestrained by grace. It is described for us in detail in the book of the Revelation, especially in the judgments of the seals and the trumpets. It will be a time when the horrors of Nazi persecution, reflected in the gas chambers of Buchenwald and Dachau, will be repeated all over the earth; a time when violence stalks the streets, and the nuclear witches of terror scream through the skies. As Jesus said, it will be a day of unprecedented human evil, of terrible slaughter and human suffering.
But immediately following this tribulation terrifying signs appear in the heavens. The phrase, "the powers of the heavens will be shaken," suggests severe gravitational disturbance of the solar system. This in turn would produce phenomenal effects on the earth. Showers of meteors will flash through the darkening skies. Earthquakes cause the land to heave and shake, and great tidal waves sweep the coasts. Luke reports that, "men [will be] fainting with fear," and there will be great "distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves." Volcanoes erupt, spouting out streams of lava and vast clouds of cinder and ash which obscure the sun and the moon. The sun is darkened and the moon reddens and is finally unable to shine at all.
Unbelievable as all this may sound to our ears, nevertheless, it very likely does not include anything which has not happened before within the memory of mankind! The Russian scientist, Immanuel Velikovsky, has amassed a tremendous amount of evidence from many sources indicating, quite apart from any religious connotation, that in the past there have occurred similar times of volcanic eruption, seismic activity, and disturbances in the solar system. It is the conviction of this scientist that the plagues of Egypt during the time of the Exodus under Moses were part of a worldwide upheaval in nature caused by a comet closely approaching this earth. Its gravity drew the waters of the sea into huge tidal waves and caused volcanoes to disgorge great flows of lava which came pouring from the mountain ranges of earth. The comet then went on to become the planet Venus, which often appears in our sky as the morning star...
Most people, I have found, think of this as a single point of time, a great event which will occur within a reasonably brief period of time. They think this mean Christ will visibly appear, come again to this earth, stand upon it, and beginning at the Mount of Olives will begin to reign throughout the earth, and they feel this is a single great event; one event seen throughout the earth. But a careful study of many Scriptures, both Old and New Testament alike, raises certain questions about that. One question is, "Where does the prediction of Paul in I Thessalonians, chapter 4, verses 16-17, fit in when he describes the Lord 'coming with a shout and the voice of the archangel and the sound of the trumpet and the church being caught up together with him in the air?'" This is a very clear description. It is one that has often been quoted and has resulted in describing this event as the "rapture" of the church. Now, the word rapture does not appear in the passage, but it comes from the Greek word which is translated here "caught up." The Latin word for that is "rapere." It is from that that we get our English word rapture. It literally means "to snatch away." I remember during the days of the Jesus movement the hope of the rapture was called the "Great Snatch." I don't think many of them knew what the Greek word meant, nevertheless, they were right on when they described it that way. It is the great catching away of God's people to join the Lord in the air, not on earth, in the air, and as Paul adds, "so shall we ever be with the Lord."
Now, when does that occur, and how does it fit with this sudden appearing of Jesus Christ in great power and glory with flaming fire taking vengeance? There are many question raised here. Another question that that passage awakens in our hearts is, "How could Christ's coming be preceded by unmistakable great signs in the earth, signs in the heavens, darkening of the sun and of the moon, signs on the earth, distress among nations, terrible events in the political and economic world, and at the same time be described as a coming "like a thief in the night" with nobody anticipating him. How could that be? Surely after the fulfillment of visible dramatic signs anybody who has ever had a Bible at all, or known anything about it, would be expecting Christ's return. It could hardly come, then, as an unexpected event, coming as a "thief in the night." This raises some questions.
Another question concerns the passage we are looking at here in II Thessalonians. It speaks of someone or something "restraining" the appearance of the Man of Sin. What is holding him back? Why did he not come during the days of the Holocaust? Or before that during some of the great times of trouble that the earth has gone through?
With lives of false prophets and false teachers in the past, why didn't Christ return then? Why didn't he come in the First Century when the church was obviously expecting him, when the City of Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple torn down and the Jewish people scattered among the nations of the earth which seemed to fulfill so exactly our Lord's words as described by Luke in chapter 17. Why didn't he come then? What is it that restrains his coming? This and other questions like this make people wonder whether the coming of Christ can be so simplified as to be just a single event suddenly occurring since it does not explain some of these other questions.
A closer study, therefore, of all the prophetic passages has given rise to the hope of what has been called a Pretribulational Rapture. I want you to get familiar, if you are not already, with several different terms. There is a term called pre-millennialism. These jaw-breakers are simply terms that are derived from certain words in Scripture. You will recognize the word millennial here. The Millennium is, of course, the predicted thousand year reign of Jesus Christ upon this earth before the final destruction of the heavens and the earth and the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth. We will look at that next week. Then there is a series of beliefs or teachings that are called "post-millennialism." "Pre," of course, means before. "Post" means afterward. This concerns the return of Christ. Is it before the Millennium, before the thousand year reign? Or does it come after the thousand year reign? Then there is still a third division called "a-millennialism," which prefixes the word the millennium with the little prefix "a" which means no millennium, and there are many Bible teachers and Christians today who claim to be amillennialists, i.e., they do not believe in a literal millennium at all. They believe it is now being fulfilled by the church. All those are general divisions of the subject of "eschatology, "the subject of the last days. You will hear those terms thrown around, so that is why I give them to you.
However, I want to look at another two terms which are part of the first one. Pre-millennialism divides itself into two camps. One is called "Pre-tribulationalism." [Forgive me for this kind of donkey work we are doing here, but I am not sure everyone knows these terms.] The other is "Post-tribulationalism." These are both a division of premillennialism. They mean does Jesus come before the Tribulation? Or does he come after the Tribulation? That is essentially the question we are going to discuss tonight. Which is right? If he comes after the tribulation, then the world is looking forward to the "Time of Trouble." That is the next event in the prophetic history of earth, and we cannot expect Jesus Christ to return until the end. He comes, then, to end the tribulation. That is very much as described here. There is some warrant for this view because it does speak of the coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation when he answers and destroys the Man of Sin. But there is also arisen this other view called "Pre-tribulationalism" that says there is an aspect of his coming that is before the tribulation.
I think it is very important to understand these terms, and we want to begin our answer to this issue tonight by viewing the key word here. It is the word "parousia" which is translated in most English versions as "the coming" of Christ. You have it here in this very chapter II Thessalonians, chapter 2, verse 1, "Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is the word parousia. Again it appears in verse 8, and also in connection with the Antichrist in verse 9, "the coming of the lawless one," ---parousia. When it speaks of coming, we always think of a person walking into a room. That is his "coming." He enters, and we think of it as referring to entrance, but this is an interesting word. The prefix "par" which is short for "para" in Greek means "alongside of" or "with." "Ousia," the rest of the word, is the Greek word for "being." Therefore, it means being with someone, or I think the best word in English that translates this word is the word "presence." Someone who is with us is present. This is the basic thought of this word. Therefore, if you will get in the habit of reading your New Testament translating every occurrence of this word with the word "presence," you will get much more of the meaning. You see presence is not just a sharply defined point of time. It is rather a beginning and an ending with a continuation, or a duration, in between, and the whole thing is labeled the parousia, the presence. Now that is what is speaking about with regard to the Lord Jesus. He will come, but come to be present for a while. Then at the end there will come the "epiphaneia" of his "parousia." Now, those two words are found together in this very chapter.
II Thessalonians, chapter 2, verse 8:
And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming.
Notice how that is translated, "by his appearing and his coming." That sounds like it is two separate things, his appearing and his coming. Yet those are obviously so closely connected that it could be that it is one event described with two terms, his appearing and his coming.
But why would Paul describe the same event with two synonyms? The answer is that this is a rather poor translation. It is not two things at all, or if it is they are very closely related in a different way than what I have just outlined. The word "epiphaneia" which is what is translated "his appearing" is "epi" which means "out" and "phaneia" which means "to shine." It comes from the Greek word "phaino" to shine. The idea here is the "out-shining" or, as some have translated it in English, "the unveiling." It is "the manifestation, the out-shining" of something. The term is really the "out-shining of his presence." So, taken in that light and in view of the fact that parousia means a presence, a duration of time, it is an event which is simply the open visible manifestation of a presence that has been here for sometime before. If you understand that phrase very clearly, I think you will have a key to fitting together all the passages of Scripture that deal with the second coming of our Lord. It is not just one single event coming at the end of time, but it is a series of events in which our Lord is present on earth during a definite period of time, finally making his presence visible by a sudden appearing "in power and in glory," a shining out, which would fit all these descriptions of him coming with flaming fire, in power and great glory, etc. That gives you a clear clue, I think, to how to understand the coming of Christ. He is coming with a "presence."
The question that comes now is, "When does the parousia begin?" When can we expect this presence of the Lord in a rather secret, hidden way that will ultimately be revealed by the out-shining of his glory at the end of the tribulation? And to answer that I want to go back to our Lord's own words found in Matthew 24. This is the teaching of Jesus himself on that dramatic occasion when he sat with the disciples on the Mount of Olive before he was betrayed and answered some of their questions. In Matthew 24, verse 3 you have the questions the disciples asked him.
Matthew 24, verse 3:
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will this be?"
That question relates to the previous verse when the disciples had looked at the buildings of the temple, that glorious building that was an architectural wonder, and had pointed out the great stones that were there. Jesus said to them, "Truly I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down." And it is to that answer that the disciples address the question, "When will this be?" Then they asked,
...and what will be the sign of your coming [Here they use the very word we have been discussing "parousia." Then a third question.] and of the close of the age? [So there are three questions here.]
Our Lord answers them in the following verses. I am not going to take time to read them all to you, but I want to outline the answers for you. First he answers the question, "When will this be?"---the destruction of the temple when will it be? His answer covers from verse 4 through verse 14 in chapter 24 of Matthew. What he does at this point is project himself through what we now know to be thousands of years of history; from that moment until our present moment in history and beyond. Who knows how much longer beyond. He also covers in very brief sweep the characterizations of that whole age of history. He speaks about false Christs who will come and lead people astray, about nations rising against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms, wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, increasing persecution of the people of God until many of them are delivered up to betrayal and death, love growing cold, wickedness increasing, and then the gospel of the kingdom being preached throughout this whole earth. Now these are not what are oftentimes called "signs of the times." They are not. They are signs of the whole age. They are characterizations of the whole age. And what he is saying to, "When will this be?" is that all of these signs must be fulfilled and then the temple will be destroyed. What the disciples did not realize, and could not have realized, was that he was not talking about the building that was standing at that moment. In Luke 21 he does talk about that, and he tells them, "When you see the armies surrounding Jerusalem, then you will know it's time to get out of the city because the city is going to be destroyed." But here he is looking on to another temple yet to be built which will be destroyed and a later fulfillment. He gives all these indications of what must happen in history before that time. This is a very familiar phenomenon in prophetic passages. This double fulfillment, this leap over the years must always be taken into account. If with our understanding of the New Testament, we look at the Old Testament, we now know many of the events described in the Old Testament in connection with Christ's coming were a blending of the first coming and the second coming. No one could tell them apart. It would have been impossible to separate the second coming events from the first coming events before Christ first came. So, we do not need to blame the disciples for being confused at this point or for the early Christians expecting an immediate coming of Christ. He meant it to be that way. It was very difficult to tell. So it is in this case. Anyway we have here the answer he gave to question one.
Then in Chapter 24, verse 15 he skips over the second question for the time being and answers the third question, "What will be the sign of the close of the age, the end of the age?" Daniel had spoken of a "time of the end." Other prophets had referred to this. Now Jesus answers their questions, "What will be the sign that the age is about to end?" His answer is in verse 15.
Matthew chapter 24, verse 15:
So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place, [That is not the temple that was there on Mount Zion at the time but the one that is to be built in the last days,] then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house; ...Pray that you flight may not be in the winter...For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no flesh would be saved."
He speaks of days when the entire extermination of the race was possible, but those days are to be shortened for the elect's sake. Then he goes on to warn about being deceived about these events, and his word continues through verse 28. This is the section in which he answers the question, "What will be the sign of the close of the age?" The sign is the same sign that Paul speaks of in II Thessalonians, the Man of Sin seated in the temple proclaiming himself to be God. That is the "desolating sacrilege" which Daniel also predicted. That is the sign indicating the age has reached its close. It is not the beginning of that close. It occurs actually in the middle of Daniel's seventieth week which is seven years long. A sign in Scripture does not necessarily mark the beginning or the ending of anything but the character of it. This sign will be that which marks the close of the age.
Then beginning with Matthew 24, verse 29 through verse 31, Jesus answers question number two, "What will be the sign of your coming, the parousia, your presence?" And he answers this very clearly in these verses. They are short enough I can read them to you.
Matthew, chapter 24, verse 29:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days [This follows the great tribulation] the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, [Now what is that sign? Well, it is not the coming of Jesus because he goes on to say] ...and they will see the Son of man coming... [If it is not the coming, then what is it ?]
Well, all through Scripture there has been a special, peculiar, particular sign of the presence of God. Can you guess what it is? It is the shining cloud of glory called the Shekinah which hovered over the tribes of Israel as they passed through the desert and guarded them by day and by night. When the temple was dedicated by King Solomon, at the moment of dedication the cloud of glory filled the temple and rested upon the Ark of the Covenant as a sign that God was dwelling in the midst of his people. Now it is instructive that when the disciples were with Jesus on the Mount of Olives at the time of his ascension, it says, "They saw him ascending into the heavens until a cloud received him out of their sight." And when he comes again, he will come it says, "in the clouds." Here again you have in this very passage that he will be,
Matthew, chapter 24, verse 30b:
...coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
So the sign of his coming which is the end of the parousia, the final event of it, the out-shining of his presence is the Shekinah cloud of glory.
Then he speaks of the signs we can look for to know this day is drawing nigh, the fig tree, etc., but beginning at verse 36 he goes on. The disciples had not ask for this. They did not know about it, but he goes on to give them some information they would not have known.
Matthew chapter 24, verse 36:
But of that day and hour no one knows, [Now, if you have any tendency to set dates or to believe people who set dates, take your pen and underline this verse] not even the angels of heaven, [let alone the prognosticators of earth] nor the Son, [Isn't that amazing? In the days of his flesh our Lord himself did not know the time of his coming. He was limited in his humanity. He knew many thing that we do not know, but he did not know this] but the Father only.
There is a warning here not to set dates. It precedes the revelation he is going to give that this event he now is going to describe is an imminent event, i.e., could come at any time, but no one knows when and cannot know. He describes it.
Matthew, chapter 24, verse 37:
As were the days of Noah, so will be the parousia of the Son of man. 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, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the parousia of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
My question now is, "Could this possibly, by any stretch of the imagination, be the same coming that is described just a few verses earlier as the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory preceded by a terrible time of trouble and with terrible signs in the heavens and on the earth?" Could it be the same? I don't see how anybody could say this is the same event being described here. Our Lord begins by likening it to the days of Noah. He says, "In the days of Noah before the flood life was going on as usual." That is the meaning of this paragraph. In Luke's account you will find that Luke adds the days of Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah. In the same way, he says. Lot and the people of Sodom did not know any judgment was intended. They were just doing what comes naturally, and that is what our Lord describes here. Before the flood, although it was a time of violence with wickedness widespread throughout the earth and a time of a troubled civilization, nevertheless people were doing the usual things. They were getting married and eating and drinking, etc. That is a vivid description of life going on as usual. Nothing unusual occurring. Nothing that had not been occurring for centuries in the history of man. But suddenly, when they did not know, a flood came and swept them all away. So, he says, in like manner will be the parousia of the Son of man.
So, we have here in this one discourse both the ending and the beginning of our Lord's parousia, his presence on earth. It ends in the out-shining, the manifestation of power and glory. It begins with a secret coming seen only by the believers who hear the voice of the Lord, the command of the Lord, the archangel's cry and the trump of God and suddenly disappear to be with the Lord, to meet the Lord in the air, as Paul says. Remember how he also amplifies that in I Corinthians 15, verse 51. He says,
"Behold, I show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed," [That is a word to believers.] "We shall not all die, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye."
It is the event called the "rapture" or the snatching away, the departure of the church. And, as our Lord tells us, it will be highly selective. Two men will be in the field working, one taken, one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill, one taken, one left. And Luke adds in his account, two men will be in the same bed, one taken, one left. It is very interesting that you have a description of an event which finds the earth in darkness at one place, where men have gone to bed, and another place where they are out in the field working. This is an indication that the great snatch is a simultaneous event happening all over the earth with part of the earth in darkness and part of the earth in light, part daytime, part nighttime. Our Lord comes without the world's knowledge. They do not know what has happened, and according to the hints that are given in various Scriptures, Christ remains, in a sense, behind the scenes of the great tribulation, the day of wrath, appearing and disappearing to those who are his own. The church is with him. "So shall we ever be with the Lord," says the Apostle. So we enter into the fulfillment of some of these words the Apostle speaks as we share the judgments of the Lord. We shall judge angels. We shall judge among the nations, etc. This is the beginning of that time when the church enters into the Lord's ministry in a kind of secret presence here on the earth.
Now, if you see it in that way, you will understand what our Lord says the world will be saying at that time. For 40 days after his resurrection, our Lord appeared and disappeared to his own. Remember the accounts in the gospels? Suddenly he would be in the room, and then he would be gone. They would be walking down a road, and he was with them. They were up in Galilee, and there he was up there. He appeared and disappeared and the whole ministry of the post resurrection period is what occurs again when he comes back, and he begins to appear and disappear. This is why he says in the account here, "People will say, 'Where is he?'" Rumors of his appearance will be widespread, rife on the earth, and people will go around saying, "Where is he?" Some false prophets will say, "He is in the desert." Others will say, "No, he is in the inner room. We have a special contract with him. He only appears in our meeting," and our Lord's word is, "If they say that, do not go with them. Do not pay any attention to them, because as the lightning shines from the east to the west so will be the parousia of the Son of man." What he means by that is not that a bolt of lightning actually covers the whole of the heavens. It never does. But when it strikes, its effects are worldwide. That is what he means here, and he warns that this will be the case.
144,000 Jews, called out of each of the 12 tribes of Israel, will openly bear witness during this time. A multitude of gentiles---greater number than anyone can number---out of every tribe and nation on earth, will come to believe in him at the cost of their own lives in many many cases. John sees this in the book of Revelation. At the end of it there is an unveiling of his appearance. After the Man of Sin, at the middle of this week, reveals himself in the temple and the terrible judgments of the tribulation come down during this last 3½ year period, at the end our Lord reveals himself in the clouds of the heavens as the one who has come to take over the kingdoms of this earth.
Now, one final question, "Who is the restrainer?" I go back to II Thessalonians for that. There is a word here that is very important.
II Thessalonians, chapter 2, verse 5:
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.
You know, I used to read that passage and get very angry with Paul. "Why tell these people they know, and not tell us because we want to know too?" I used to do that with some of the things our Lord said too. I would get very upset that he did not say the whole thing until I realized that when the Scripture does not specifically tell you something, it is usually because that something is obvious, well known. I want to say to you tonight, "You know what restrains him too." The mystery of lawlessness is already at work. It is not only working in the world but it is working in you and in me. What restrains that mystery of evil in our own nature? Galatians 5:17 tells us very plainly. "The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh so that you cannot do what you would do." That is a restrainer. The flesh under control, limited by the Spirit. This takes us back to our Lord's words when he said in the Sermon on the Mount those amazing words, "You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth." Light dispels darkness, and God's people in any age or time or clime are the light of the world. Jesus said later, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world," but when he left physically, the continuous light would be manifested through his people, "You are the light of the world."
Now salt is a different ministry. What does salt do? It arrests corruption. It restrains decay, moral decay. We put salt on meat to preserve it from corruption and decay. The ancients knew that very well. Every bit of fish that was sent from Galilee down to Jerusalem was packed in salt to preserve it during the long journey down to its marketplace. They knew this well. This is what Jesus meant, "You are the salt of the earth." It is the Spirit working in us and through us that is the restraint against the world being taken over by evil.
You and I often sing the blues about what is going on in our world. We listen to the 6 o'clock "Blues" every night, and then we echo it in our own feelings, "How terrible things are getting." Oftentimes I think we are tempted to think that evil is rampant, that it is in control. It really is not. It never has been. There has never been a time on earth when evil was in control. Do you know how I know? Because to this very day evil has to disguise itself as good in order to be accepted. Is that not true? Politicians can not get away with outright lies. They have to appear to be good. They have to sound like they are telling the truth. Prostitutes want to be known as "ladies." Evil cannot manifest itself widely. Desperadoes and gangsters and others have to appear as good well-meaning persons, salt-of-the-earth. Evil has to disguise itself because good is in control. That may sound rather amazing, but it is true. I know we often feel like the little rhyme that says:
Our race had a splendid beginning,
But man spoiled his chances by sinning.
We hope that the story will end in God's glory,
But at present the other side's winning.
But it really is not. Much more true are the words of the poet James Russell Lowell when he said:
Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet 'tis truth alone that's strong.
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadows
Keeping watch above his own
You see there is a restraining force on earth. It is the presence of the church, the Spirit of God in his people, and God cannot bring about the terrible judgments of the tribulation until that force is taken out of the way. When it is the Man of Sin shall be revealed. That is why there has been born, supported by other passages I do not have time to go into here, the hope within the church that we will be spared the judgment of the great tribulation, not spared tribulation because we all have that in various degrees. Some generations of Christians have gone through terrible tribulation, but as to the great tribulation, there is the promise given to us that we shall not be part of it.
I Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 9:
For God has not destined us for wrath, [That is what the great tribulation is, the wrath of God] but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might be together with him.
That is the hope he holds out in this whole section. Well, my time is gone but I want to point this out. We are not, therefore, waiting for tribulation. What are we waiting for? We are waiting for the Lord Jesus. I want to close with reading a beautiful expression of this in a rhyme by Annie Johnson Flint.
It is not for a sign we are watching,
For wonders above and below,
The pouring of vials of judgments,
The sounding of trumpets of woe.
It is not for a day we are looking,
Not even the time yet to be,
When the earth shall be filled with God's glory,
As the waters cover the sea.
It is not for a king we are longing,
To make the world kingdoms his own.
It is not for a judge who will summon
The nations of earth to his throne.
Not for these, though we know they are coming,
For they are but adjuncts of him,
Before whom all glory is clouded,
Beside whom all splendor grows dim.
We wait for the Lord, our beloved,
Our comforter, Master and friend,
The substance of all that we hope for,
Beginning of faith and its end.
We watch for our Saviour and Bridegroom,
Who loved us and made us his own.
For him we are looking and longing,
For Jesus and Jesus alone.
Well, what are we to do while we wait? Our Lord tells us. In one of his parables he says he gave certain talents to various individuals and said to them, "Occupy until I come." Keep busy. Get to work. Live as he told you to live with the power that he himself gives. Utilize what he has given you, the gifts of the Spirit that are yours, the opportunities that are found around you. "Occupy until I come." That is the hope of the church. (Ray Stedman, The Coming King of Kings)
A Glorious Church Without Spot or Wrinkle
Churches as Cabals
The Rapture and the Second Coming
If the Rapture Happened Today
The Wife of Jehovah and the Bride of Christ
The Judgment Seat of Christ
The Great Harlot
The Last Church Before the Rapture
The Left Behind
Population Decrease Ahead
Spiritual Gifts and Body Life
Some Notes about Heaven
Israel and the Church - My Body: The Church - Chuck Missler
The Church in the End Times - Chuck Missler
The Once And Future Church - Chuck Missler
The Limits of Science | What is Revelation from God | God and the Angels | Software not Hardware | Science in a Broken Universe
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April 7, 2021, September 23, 2022