Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ told his disciples that He planned to build His Church.
This entity will have members who are personally reconciled to Jesus. Down on the planet, "churches" are everywhere.
The Glorious Church
The Church Papers
A Radical Rapture
The Restoration of All Things
Please read the links to see the big picture
An “age” is an historical period of time or an era. Some historians divide human history into many epochs and name them according to their defining characteristics: Dark Age, Middle Ages, Modern Age, Postmodern Age, etc. Biblical history, too, can be divided into different eras. When those divisions emphasize God’s interaction with His creation, we call them dispensations. More broadly, biblical history can be divided into two periods, roughly following the division of Old and New Testaments: the Age of the Law and the Church Age.
The Church Age is the period of time from Pentecost (Acts 2) to the Rapture (foretold in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). It is called the Church Age because it covers the period in which the Church is on earth. It corresponds with the dispensation of Grace. In prophetic history, it falls between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27, Romans 11). Jesus predicted the Church Age in Matthew 16 when He said, “I will build my church.” Jesus has kept His promise, and His Church has now been growing for almost 2,000 years.
The Church is composed of those individuals who have by faith accepted Christ Jesus as their Savior and Lord (John 1:12; Acts 9:31. Therefore, the Church is people rather than denominations or buildings. It is the Body of Christ of which He is the head (Ephesians 1:22-23). The Greek word Ecclesiastes, translated “church,” means “a called-out assembly.” The Church is universal in scope but meets locally in smaller bodies.
The Church Age (2000 years now) comprises the entire dispensation of Grace. “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). For the first time in history, God actually indwells His creatures, permanently and eternally. In other dispensations the Holy Spirit was always present and always at work, but He would come upon people temporarily (e.g., 1 Samuel 16:14). The Church Age is marked by the Holy Spirit’s permanent indwelling of His people (John 14:16).
Scripture makes a distinction between the nation of Israel and the Church (1 Corinthians 10:32). There is some overlap because, individually, many Jews believe in Jesus as their Messiah and are therefore part of the Church. But God’s covenants with the nation of Israel have not yet been fulfilled. Those promises await fulfillment during the Millennial Kingdom, after the Church Age ends (Ezekiel 34n37;45; Jeremiah 30-33; Matthew 19:28; Revelation 19).
The Church Age will end when God’s people are raptured out of the world and taken to be with the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:51-57). The rapture will be followed in heaven by the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, (Revelation 19:6-9) as the Church, the Bride of Christ, receives her heavenly reward. Until then, the Church carries on in hope, exhorted to “stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). --From GotAnsewers.com
Most churches and their members today are not members of the true church in heaven! My mentor, Ray Stedman, one noted,
"Last week I went through the yellow pages of the telephone book and counted the number of Christian churches in Palo Alto. There are 36 of them, all claiming to be Christian. I did not even attempt to count the churches in the cities on the Peninsula. If we were to include all the cities that ring the Bay Area we would probably find that there are thousands of churches in this part of California alone.
Surely this forces the question upon us, "If all these churches were like the churches in the book of Acts, do you think life on the Peninsula would be different than it is today?" There is no doubt it would be tremendously different. The book of Acts lists a mere handful of churches, made up of slaves and working class people for the most part. As Paul said to the Corinthians, "There are not many mighty, not many rich among you," (1 Corinthians 1:26). Nevertheless there was such a dynamic at work in those churches that within 25 years after the day of Pentecost, when Paul and his companions, Timothy, Luke and Silas came to Thessalonika on the outskirts of the empire, the people sent a delegation to the city fathers saying, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here also," (Acts 17:6). It is recorded that the city fathers were very disturbed by the news. That was the impact of the early church.
What has happened in the meantime? Why are churches in general today so weak and ineffectual, having little impact upon society? Why is society degenerating while churches are increasing in number and in size? I agree there are dynamic churches here and there that are making an impact and reaching people. But we have to admit that churches like that are relatively rare. While this may sound like an oversimplification, I believe the reason for the change can be put in a very brief form: We have changed the strategy of the church. We no longer are operating as the Lord of the church instructed at the beginning. The church has filed away the original strategy and come up with one of its own which seems to be much more suitable for our day. That is why the church is steadily decreasing in power and influence..." The New Strategy.
The religious but false church on earth is likened to a Harlot in the Bible, contrasting with the true church, a Bride.
Who is a Christian and who is not? See The Church Papers.
Capable of Time Travel
No Genitalia but Two Genders
Have a Probably Cloaking Device
Recognizable by Family and Friends
(If you know Jesus)
"For we know that if our earthly (Greek: epignosis) house, this tent, [skenos, a tent] is destroyed, we have [present tense]
a building [Greek: oikos, a permanent building] from God, a house (oikodome) not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation (deterioration)
which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
For we who are in this tent groan, (skenos Stevena) being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, (ekdyo)
but further clothed, (ependyomai) that mortality (thneatos) may be swallowed up (katapino) by life. (zoe)
Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee (arrabon)
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.
For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him." (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
The Soul in Larkin’s diagram on the left interfaces with the body and the external world on the one hand and the Spirit on the inside. The boundary between Soul and Spirit is generally thought as somewhat diffuse. The Soul is usually modeled as “Mind, Emotions, and Will.” The Spirit of a person is thought to dwell in the “Heart” and “Mind” but these entities cannot be localized in our physical brain or our heart muscle. The role of our emotions, our self-image, our personal history our genetic and cultural valises, and such, are probably recorded in data files resident in the body and the soul. From the Bible we can be assured that God has a long memory and does not forget anything we say or do. This, “How shall we escape if we neglect such great salvation...” (Heb. 2:3) He does promise us, “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrew 8:12)
“Soulish” or “Carnal” Christians (old terminology) are said to have excluded Jesus Christ from the control room of the Spirit, allowing Him to influence them only from the Soul. Many professing Christians have not yet surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives. This step makes all the difference in the world! If Jesus is not my Lord then my final authority is some other god, not Jesus. In terms of man as tripartite, my spirit attempts to live my life from the soul rather than from the innermost chamber, the Holy of holies of my body. My surrender to the Lordship of Christ, allows God the Holy Spirit to rule over all areas of my life. God has my permission to sanctify me. This is step two in His work of making me holy (whole).
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says:
1. “When He ascended on high,
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 1for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:7-30)
2. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the off-scouring of all things until now.“ (1 Corinthians 4:3-13)
3. 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. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpreventable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it."Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually." (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
“For our citizenship (politeuma) is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform (metaschēmatizō) our lowly body (tapeinōsis) that it may be conformed (symmorphos) to His glorious body, according to the working (energeia) by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21)
“For we know that if our earthly house, (epigeios oikia), this tent (skenos), is destroyed, (katalyō) we (now) have a building (oikodomē) from God, a house (oikia) not made with hands, (acheiropoiētos), eternal in the heavens. For in this (oikia) we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-7)
If you are an observer living on earth now, the date of the Rapture is not known, but probably will happen soon. The soon return of Jesus has been "imminent" since He left! If you do not know Jesus Christ (and are "spiritually dead") you are presently constrained to view all events in history (past, present, future)--as taking place in linear time. Linear time, aka "orbital time" is determined the law of gravity, the motion of the earth orbiting the sun in one year, the moon orbiting earth every lunar month, and the earth revolving around its axis every 24 hours. (Radiometric dating is a separate subject for now.) You came into this life on your birth-day, recorded on a calendar. You grew up, went to school, left home, joined the Army, went to college, got married, had 3.4 kids, enjoyed a successful career, grew old and died. All these recordable events were separate from your spiritual life (if you had one). Recording angels assigned to your case kept accurate accounts to be forwarded to Judge Jesus.
If you knew Jesus, if you walked with Him as you were supposed to do, you have already experienced (to one degree or another) "everlasting" or "eternal life" --the very life of God Himself.
Jesus prayed, And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3) Since God makes His rain fall on the just and the unjust, everyone receives grace from God because He IS love.
In the last book of the Bible, the Book of the Revelation two classes of people can be discerned. They are the "earth dwellers" and the "heaven dwellers." The time interval from the Rapture (4:1) to the Second Advent of Jesus (19:1) can be seen to be right around seven earth years. “Earth dwellers” on have only earth clocks to go by. But “heaven dwellers” are not so limited. For us living in New Jerusalem additional time lines are open to us. The expression “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day” (2 Peter 3:8) will take on new meaning in heaven.
The internal flow of time within the Book of the Revelation is generally forward in linear, historic time. John the writer was a visitor there in AD 95, in an old mortal, earth dweller’s body. Heaven-dwellers with all new bodies will have a very different sense of time.
The subject of time is vast and is worthy of many books. Too many myths today bogs most readers down so they may miss the basics. Time as we know it is a created entity, brought into being by God along with the rest of the created universe. God existed as a "timeless" or "timeful" entity before Genesis 1:1 but time was at first "undefined" in the scientific sense. Furthermore, the entrance of evil into the otherwise pristine universe altered the nature of time as we now perceive it.
Our present bodies have a limited lifetime because of sin. We all realize that our showing up on the planet was not our choice. Our soul and spirit, once created, will exist forever.
Teach me to Number my Nanoseconds
The Glorious Church
The Lamb's Book of Life
The Book of Life
Wheels Within Wheels
Notes About Heaven
New Body Life
Body Life by Ray Stedman
The Seven Churches in New Jerusalem
'Til the End of Time
“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.”
“Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 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; 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. (1 Corinthians 3:9-17)
Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8)
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
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; 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
If anyone’s work is burned up, 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, whose temple you are. (1 Corinthians 3:9-17)
New Jerusalem, the home of the true church, will be a holy place.
Compromised of former carnal Christians won't feel at home there, at first.
Yet all who know Jesus will be caught up at the Rapture.
The Judgment Seat of Christ will not be about sin.
All our sin was dealt with by Jesus on the cross.
An old understanding of our growth was the sequence:
3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits1and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you bare to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared2 to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar kin furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.3 But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And may be is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.4 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army \to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics,5 their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men abound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they were not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, s“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside6 the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore i make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:1-30)
3:1 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3)
|Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both,of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3)|
Two Aspects of the Return of Christ
"For the grace of God has appeared [the First Advent of Jesus]
for the salvation of all men,
training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions,
and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world,
awaiting our blessed hope,
and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
[the Second Coming in glory]
who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity
and to purify for himself a people of his own
who are zealous for good deeds."
Jesus will come for his bride, the true church at an unexpected hour. This is made clear by the use of the term "like a thief in the night." Seven years later Jesus will be publicly unveiled on earth, with his saints:
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming 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 coming 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." (Matthew 24:36-44)
"For the Lord [Jesus] himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, 'There is peace and security,' then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 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, and 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, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." (1 Thessalonian 4:16-5:11)
Ray C. Stedman says,
Two Phases of His "Presence"
When Jesus speaks about his return he is not referring to a single moment of time when he will appear, but his talking about a return that covers a period of time. It will begin with a secret arrival, when he will come like a thief in the night. This will be the beginning of his "presence." But that presence will continue throughout all the time of trouble on earth, but behind the scenes, as it were, invisible to the world. Then, "after the tribulation of those days," he will manifest his presence visibly, appearing in power and great glory.
This invisible presence of Jesus on earth is not something wholly new. During the forty days after his resurrection he was in exactly this condition. He appeared and disappeared among his disciples and they never knew when he was coming or when he would go. He was suddenly there, and just as suddenly gone. He was here, but not here. For forty days this manifestation went on until he ascended into heaven. When he comes again he will resume the same relationship to the believing Jews and Gentiles of that time. The church will be caught up to be with him, to join him in that remarkable presence during the terrible days of trouble on earth.
The Church Removed
The removal of the church is described also in other passages. Paul writes to the Thessalonians about that, too in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18:
"For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming [parousia] of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep [died]. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
This event is call the departure of the church. An older word for it is the "rapture" of the church. As you will note in what Paul says about it, it is intended to be a source of comfort to Christians. It is called in Titus 2:13 "our blessed hope." It means that one whole generation of Christians will not physically die, but will pass directly into a glorified state, as Jesus did on the Mount of Transfiguration before the astonished eyes of Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:2). No wonder one Christian said, "I'm not waiting for the undertaker; I'm waiting for the uppertaker!"
Don't let your imagination run away with you in trying to conceive what this event will be like. It is highly likely that it will not be visible to the world. It will be unseen and unfelt, with no disturbance of graves and nothing to indicate that anything has happened other than the strange disappearance of thousands. Just as the body of Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and passed out through the tomb in which he had resided without any physical manifestation whatever, so this event will take place. The stone was not rolled away from Jesus' tomb to let him out; it was rolled away to let the disciples in-so they could see what had happened. When Peter came in and found the grave clothes still lying as though wrapped around a body, but with the body absent, he was convinced that something unusual had occurred. So this will be a silent event, recognizable only by the unexplained disappearance of many. Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 15:51,52:
"Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 imperishable, and we shall be changed."
The whole point of our Lord's revelation of this fantastic event is, as he puts it, "Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming." Do not be deceived, do not be misled or swept off your feet by the persuasive lies of unbelief in this day. Do not be distracted by the siren sounds of a deceived society which vainly imagines that all will go on forever as it does now. Do not be deterred in your service by the growing power of evil or the dark gloom of deluded men who can switch suddenly from glowing optimism to shuddering despair. The great removal can come at any time. Are you watching? (http://raystedman.org/olivet/oliv04.html)
The most dramatic event in all history will be the visible appearing of Jesus Christ. No one can possibly miss it when it occurs. He himself describes it for us in Matthew 24:29-31:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days 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, 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 out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
This is the most prophesied event in the Bible. The Old Testament contains many references to it, and it has been estimated that in the New Testament one verse out of ten refers to this coming of Jesus Christ. If all the references to this event were taken out of the New Testament, you find it unintelligible in many parts.
From "Presence" to Unveiling
But 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."
The final crashing crescendo of civilization's last hour will be accomplished in three sweeping movements. Each of these is traced in broad strokes by Jesus. The first is a violent activity in nature:
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days 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."
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. (http://raystedman.org/olivet/oliv08.html)
"...for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who ha not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned." (2 Thessalonians)
Also from Ray Stedman
COMMENTATORS HAVE OFTEN portrayed the second coming of Jesus as a single dramatic event (Matt. 24:21, 29), following the Great Tribulation, where the Lord will suddenly appear in power and great glory, visible to every eye (Rev. 1:7). The church will be caught up to meet Him and will then return with Him to earth (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) where He will judge the living and dead. This either establishes His millennial kingdom or ushers in the new heaven and new earth, depending on which millennial view the commentator holds.
This scenario has numerous difficulties connected with it, however, not least of which are the several promises in the New Testament that the true church will not be present during the Great Tribulation. A key to understanding the teaching of the New Testament on this subject is the Greek word parousia. This word is commonly translated "coming," which in the mind of the reader projects the vision of the single dramatic appearance described above. But parousia should properly be translated "presence." This is the meaning given first by both Thayer and Arndt and Gingrich lexicons and includes the idea of an entrance, a consequent duration, and either an exit or a continued presence. It is not, therefore, a single event a but continuum (I---------I) of unspecified duration.
This meaning is the only way to make sense of Jesus' revelation in Matthew 24 of His return to earth in the last days. There He describes a coming in power and glory immediately following the terrible time of trouble that He calls "the great tribulation" and the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars from heaven (Matthew 24:28-30). But it would be impossible for such a coming to take anyone by surprise who knew of our Lord's description. For in the same chapter Jesus speaks of His coming as unexpected and sudden as the flood came upon the people of Noah's day; and He likens it to a thief creeping into a household at night, without warning, and surreptitiously removing its treasure (vv. 36-44). Yet how could His coming be both unexpected and preceded by such cosmic events of dramatic character?
The only answer is that one passage describes His initial, totally unheralded and unexpected appearing while the other describes the disclosure of His presence by a dramatic display of power and glory after the Tribulation has run its course and the sun, moon, and stars have done their predicted thing.
Jesus' coming like a thief would be a fulfillment of I Thessalonians 4:13-18: He would catch up His true church to Himself and then remain on earth during all the events of the Tribulation, but in the same conditions He manifested during His forty-day post-resurrection ministry when He appeared and disappeared at will. After the darkening of the sun and the moon He would disclose His presence to the entire earth in fulfillment of Matthew 24:28-30 and Revelation 1:7. Thus His initial, thief-like coming, His continued presence behind the scenes on earth, and His final revelation in power would all be covered by the term parousia. It is noteworthy that where Paul refers to the public revelation of Jesus in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, he calls it "the splendor of his coming" (NIV), which literally means "the epiphaneia ("out-shining") of his parousia ("presence").
But what happens to the church after it is caught up to meet the Lord in the air, as I Thessalonians 4:13-18 describes? The answer of Scripture is "so shall we ever be with the Lord." Wherever the Lord is, there the church will be also, sharing with Him in His work whatever it will be. But some may object, "I thought the church was to be in heaven with the Lord."
And indeed it will--but what and where is heaven? It is certainly not another place in the cosmos, within the time-space continuum with which we are familiar. In the light of the new physics of Einstein and others, many are coming to see that heaven is a term for another dimension of existence. It need not be spatially removed from us at all, but may be as present on earth as it is anywhere else. When Jesus appeared and disappeared in the course of His post-resurrection ministry, He was simply stepping in and out of the invisible dimension where spiritual realities exist--heaven. Yet all the time He was in some sense on earth, for He said that He had not yet ascended to His Father.
While I admit that this may be somewhat speculative and mysterious, it is supported by several passages of Scripture. It simply implies that the church (consisting of believers with glorified bodies) will accompany the Lord in His behind-the-scenes directing of the events of the Tribulation. It is this same church that the apostle John sees under the symbol of a glorious city, coming from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. The marriage supper of the Lamb will already have taken place in those invisible realms while the events of the Tribulation rage on earth.
Appendix to Ray C. Stedman, Waiting for the Second Coming, Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, 1990.
|Rapture Passages||Second Coming Passages|
1 Corinthians 1:7-8
1 Corinthians 15:51-53
1 Corinthians 16:22
1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:19
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
1 Thessalonians 5:19
2 Thessalonians 2:1
1 Timothy 6:14
2 Timothy 4:1, 8
1 Peter 1:7, 13; 5:4
Revelation 2:25; 3:10
Mark 13: 14-27
Mark 14:62 , 23
1 Thessalonians 3:13
Jude 14, 15
Revelation 22:7, 12, 20
Rapture and Second Coming Contrasted
Could return at any moment
Following timed events
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July 27, 2023.