Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bite-Sized Bible Studies: Living for the Rapture- Our Glory!

Did you know that as Christians we are to be eagerly looking to and living for the rapture (Rom. 8:23, Phil. 3:20)? We're not looking for the Antichrist, the destruction of the world or death, but the beginning of eternal life with Jesus and our glorification in Him (John 10:28). For the Christian, the rapture is not the loss of life, it is the fulfillment of it. It is the Church's glorification (1 Cor. 15:51-57). It ushers in our new, perfect, sinless, glorified, eternal bodies.

For the followers of Christ, it moves us from our temporary tents into permanent, beautiful homes made without hands, made especially for us by the Lord Himself (2 Cor. 5:1, 1 Pet. 1:3-5, John 14:1-4). That’s why Paul, in Titus 2:11-14, reminds us, among other things, that Jesus Himself taught us to be living our lives looking for His glorious appearing at the rapture, which can take place at any time.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”

Jesus said that no one can know the day or hour the rapture will occur, which means it’s imminent, it could happen at any time (and it has always been that way throughout Church history, by God’s design). It is embarrassing and shameful for those that expected the rapture to take place on May 21st, 2011, like Harold Camping who is responsible for that erroneous teaching. Their whole understanding of how the end time events and the rapture will unfold is unbiblical.

To read more about what the Bible says about the rapture, the Christian’s blessed hope, visit: https://www.walkingwithjesus.net/ for a free e-booklet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Out Of His Mouth Goes A Sharp Sword

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:


In this chapter of Revelation, we see one of many pictures of the second coming of Jesus Christ that are given to us in the Scriptures. The coming of the Lord will mean a bloody end for the leaders and armies of the world, shown here near the end of chapter nineteen as they reach the end of the great final world war in the Valley of Megiddo. This passage gives us a picture of Jesus that we do not usually think of when we think of our humble, merciful and just Messiah from Nazareth. Here we see Jesus coming to destroy those who have rejected the one, true Holy God; those that are annihilating each other and destroying the earth (Rev 11:18). Notice that Jesus’ eyes are “like a flame of fire” and His “robe is dipped in blood” and His name is “The Word of God”. “He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” and “Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.” This passage marks the end of human history as we know it. And, operating in the way that justice systems and police departments of this world are supposed to operate, Jesus is the protection and might for those attempting to live in peace with God. But, He is the prosecution, sentencing agent and judge of the violent and disobedient toward God; those that are literally killing each other, fighting Jesus and ruining the earth. Shockingly, this, the Bible tells us, is the future of this world that we live in now. The way things are going in the world today, the second coming of Christ is clearly approaching briskly. Jesus' second coming will usher in God’s perfect Kingdom on the earth. That is why we pray, “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).” It is a world of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).”

Most of us wonder where the world is heading. Some imagine that mankind will work out all of its problems and evils itself. But in reality, it only keeps getting worse, not better like British 60‘s rock band The Beatles said. As opposed to The Beatles' chorus “it’s getting better all the time,” the Bible has been telling us for centuries exactly what’s going to happen, and it’s unfolding right before our eyes, in our time. It has become obvious to many throughout the world that the days we live in are the days leading up to the final one-world government, the seven year Tribulation period and the second coming of Christ. Many people are finding the truth of Jesus Christ through this amazing aspect of the Bible. The bad news is that this world is heading toward a devastating, final world war. Ultimately the armies of the world turn from fighting each other to war against God Himself at Christ’s second coming. But, He is the rightful, true and just King of kings and Lord of lords. This world system of war and destruction will one day be destroyed by the Faithful and True Judge, Jesus, who destroys it with only a word from His mouth. God has graciously given the world thousands of years to repent and turn to Him in truth and in spirit, but time is running out. The good news is that the Lord will establish a new world right here on earth that is based on His truth, justice and goodness. And He’s made a way for anybody to be a part of it that wants to be a part of it.

What kingdom are you trusting in today, this world system of materialism, self satisfaction and destruction, or God’s coming Kingdom of truth, righteousness, abundance and peace available for all? In another of the apostle John’s books he wrote,

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).”

What world has captured your heart today? This crazy, violent world of pride, lust, greed and selfish ambition, or Jesus’ coming Kingdom? Through faith in Christ your sin can be forgiven and you can enter His Kingdom today by the Holy Spirit coming to dwell in you. Are you aware of His presence? 

Where the King is, there is the Kingdom. If you haven’t already, repent of your sin and invite Jesus into your heart today.

He is coming back to the earth soon to right the injustices of this evil world system that has spread like a cancer over the whole earth. But you can enter God’s Kingdom today by calling on the true King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. Make Him the King of your life today and do not waste any more of your life chasing after the things of this world, that are quickly coming to nothing
(1 Corinthians 2:6).

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bite-Sized Bible Studies: How Well Do You Know God?

I have written for him 

the great things of My law, 

But they were considered 

a strange thing.

(Hosea 8:12)

Jesus answered and said unto them, 
"Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, 
nor the power of God."  
(Matthew 22:29)

Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit to guide us, comfort us and to teach us. We can know what God is speaking to us and we can understand His Word. Jesus promised,

I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20).

How well do we know God's Word? Is His Word the standard that we live by? Do we seek God daily and do we spend time with Him in our Bibles? Do we consult His holy precepts for direction and wisdom before we make decisions? Is His Way our way? Do we live the way we do because of our culture and upbringing or because God's Word has changed us/is changing us? Do we know God? Do we know what He desires for us? Do we err, not knowing and understanding His heart, nor His power? Is His Word a strange thing to us?

The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us:

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away (Hebrews 2:1).

Our walk with the Lord and Christian life is...

'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts (Zech. 4:6).

Jesus prayed that God would cause you to grow in your walk with Him through His Word.

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17).

What a tragedy that we have God’s Word but it is a strange thing to many of us and we don’t know it! Spend some time with the Lord, in His Word, today. Let the Lord minister straight to your heart.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Feeling Scattered?

“... he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”  -Jesus, in Matthew 12:30

This is a critical warning from Jesus. Like the natural principle of gravity, this is a spiritual principle; a simple but profound statement of truth. This is a fundamental truth, always true for both non Christian and Christian alike. This is a statement that deserves contemplation by all.

Jesus made this statement in the context of saying that every sin can be forgiven a person except the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the rejection of the truth when the Holy Spirit of God reveals to a person two things: one, that they are a sinner separated from a Holy, Perfect God and two, that Jesus is the eternal, living God and the only way to be made right with God is through Him. The rejection of Christ is the rejection of the Holy Spirit of God, who is also called by Jesus “the Spirit of Truth.” To reject truth is to live in a lie. What is left for someone that is living a lie? Nothing but further deterioration of and separation from the truth. All sin will be forgiven a person through faith in the work of Jesus on the cross. He died for everyone's sin, and through our repentance from sin and receiving Him as Lord and Savior we are saved from the judgment of God on all of our sin. Our punishment has been laid on Jesus. Our faith in Him gathers us to Him. So, the only thing that cannot be forgiven a person, the only thing, is the rejection of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

All that do not gather to Him scatter abroad. The greek word translated “scatter abroad” means “to be scattered.” To be scattered means to be thrown in various directions. In this context it means to be thrown farther and farther from the truth of God in some other direction in life. It could be any number of directions. There are nearly as many directions to go as there are people. The person that turns their back on Christ will be scattered to somewhere other than the true and living God and His truth. But God has said that in order for a person to be made right with Him, because of our sin, all people that have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ must surrender their lives to Him. We all must believe that He is God and that He died for the sin of the world on the cross. To be scattered away from God speaks of an increasingly greater and greater distancing from Jesus, and reality. It is to deny Christ and to reject Him as Lord of all, and Lord of our own life.

Isn’t that exactly what we see in the world? Some say there are many roads to God. Indeed, there are many scatterings of religious, spiritual or non spiritual teaching that claim to be true. But there is only one true reality, only one true road. Reality cannot be several contradictory ideas at once. It is either as Jesus said or it is not. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to God except through Me.” That statement is either true or it is false. To live apart from Christ is to walk away from truth and reality. Do you really want to walk away from your loving Creator? Do you really want to live outside of His perfect will for your life?

As a Christian I have experienced this scattering in my life as well, even after coming to Christ as a child. Though I received Christ at an early age, I rejected and missed many lessons that His word teaches. In so doing, I spent much of my adult life scattered from Jesus in many different directions, though I believe I was saved by His grace. But, His grace has brought me back to Him, to Jesus, who is the express image and heart of the one and true living God. Peace is found in Jesus alone; and all wisdom, knowledge and truth itself. And God is always present in our lives, always as close to us as our own lips, which are always in desperate need of crying out to Him.

As followers of Christ, we too need to stay gathered close to our Good Shepherd. Just as the unrepentant need to gather to Him for the first time, we need to stay close to Him in prayer and in His word every day. We need to earnestly seek Him out moment by moment, day by day- every day. We need to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking until we are one with His perfect will every day. We need to keep pressing into Him until we have victory, until we are one with the Father, as Jesus prayed. Anything less than that sends us out scattered. Oh, Lord, let us be deathly afraid of being scattered away from you. It brings such unnecessary anxiety, confusion, depression, pain and trouble when we are away from you and the truth. Oh, Lord, bring us back to you when we are scattered. In Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bite-Sized Bible Studies: I'm Saved by Grace through Faith Alone!

I’m Saved by Grace through Faith Alone!

We are either saved by grace through faith in Jesus alone, or we are saved by works. As far as salvation is concerned, the two are mutually exclusive. There can be no combination of "grace, with a little works on the side." And God’s Word makes it clear that we are saved by faith in the work of Christ on the cross alone, or we are not saved. There is no other way to be made right with God. And, there is no such thing as a 2nd class Christian. All fall short of the glory of God. All who have truly received Jesus as their Lord and Savior are saved by God's grace and mercy alone. We cannot do anything in and of ourselves to make ourselves right with God. The work of God is that you believe in His Son Jesus Christ (Jn. 6:29). What is saving faith, or what does saving faith look like? You'll see what true faith looks like when you see all the works of the Spirit that God has done in and through a person in their life and over their lifetime. Good works do not earn us salvation, but rather works done in and by the Holy Spirit are the proof of faith. The fruit of the Spirit is love; joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Let's be careful not to judge a book by its cover. We are not called to be spiritual fruit inspectors! We answer to God, and God is able to make those who trust in Him to stand. We all have a sinful nature, even the apostle Paul struggled with his (Rom. 6-8).  We are called to minister God’s love and truth, through God’s Spirit and through God’s Word, and let His Spirit do the work in people’s hearts (including our own). He is our God and He will complete the work He has begun, in each of us who have surrendered to the Lord Jesus, until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6)! Oh Holy Spirit change us, and help us to be more like you, Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Where Do People Go After They Die?

My ten year old nephew, Skyler, asked one day, “where do people go after they die?” The Bible answers this question, and because the Bible has proven itself reliable under the toughest of attacks and scrutiny for thousands of years, we can trust what it has to say about salvation and life after death, too. Jesus confirms the biblical teaching on this subject and expands on it, speaking of it more than any other individual in the Bible! Do people who have rejected the True and Living God and His Son Jesus Christ really go to hell after dying? If so, do they go there immediately? Are Christians “asleep” in the grave after they die, until the coming of Christ, or do they go right to Heaven to be with the Lord after they die? These are excellent questions that he has asked, and the way to answer them is to pray for help from the Lord to find the answers, and to turn to God’s Word to find them.

There are many passages in the Bible that speak authoritatively about the afterlife. There will be a judgment day for all people, a time when we will stand before God to give account for our lives. Every deed done and every word spoken will be measured against the standard of perfection. For Christians, this will happen at the Bema seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10) when we will be rewarded for what we did in and through Christ. Every other work done outside of Christ will be burned away and is useless, but we will be saved and glorified with the Lord forever. For unbelievers final judgment will be at God’s Great White Throne, described in Revelation 20. At the end of time, there will be a resurrection for the wicked. The righteous are made so by faith in Christ alone, not by deeds done in the flesh, and will shine like the stars in the heavens forever (Daniel 12:3). The wicked are judged because of their rejection of Christ Jesus, their refusal to accept God’s gracious redemption.

To put it simply, those who choose to obey and follow the Lord are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone (who He is and what He did for us on the cross). Those who choose to rebel from God and reject His offer of salvation will be judged according to their own works. The Bible tells us that no one is righteous, that everyone falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3). So, without Christ’s righteousness to cover us and remove our sins, we will die in our sins. We need God to impute Christ’s righteousness to our account so that we can be acquited and saved. And that’s just what He does when we give our life to and put our faith in Jesus! (see Romans chapters 3-5)

If a person does not receive forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ, God will not force them to join Him. Jesus has many things to say about hell and who will be going there. Here are just a few verses for reference:

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins (John 8:24).”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).”

“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out (Luke 13:28).”

“But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).”

“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him (Luke 12:5)!”

Clearly the Bible teaches there is a Heaven for those who put their trust in Christ and there is a hell for those who reject God and fight against Him. To be with Jesus in His Kingdom is Heaven, where there is great joy and glory forever. And to be thrust out from His presence is hell, where there is great pain, weeping and darkness forever. In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said,

“He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”

According to the Bible, when people die they go to one of two places depending on whether or not they have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ or they have rejected Him. Sheol (a Hebrew word from the OT, called Hades in the Greek NT) is where all people who die without Christ immediately go after they die. On the other hand, people that have received God’s gracious gift of salvation, through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, go immediately into the presence of the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul said that he would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. In other words, for Christians, to die is to go to be with the Lord in Heaven.

Non-Christians go to Sheol/Hades and Christians go to be with the Lord. Hell is technically a different place than Sheol/Hades and is called Gehenna, and also the Lake of Fire. It was prepared for the devil and the fallen angels (Matthew 25:41). The first ones to go there will be the anti-Christ and his false prophet. Then Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire (hell) forever at the end of the 1,000 year reign of Christ “and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).” At that time, all of the “unrighteous dead” that ever lived, those that died rejecting God and who are eternally without Christ, will be resurrected for the final judgment. They are currently being kept in Sheol/Hades, the place of the dead, until the end of time comes. Sheol/Hades is essentially a holding place for those bound for hell/Gehenna at the final judgment. It is very much like the final, eternal hell.

“Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15).”

Jesus described Sheol/Hades in a true story in Luke 16:19-31. Initially, Sheol housed the righteous dead also, separated in “Paradise” from the wicked by a wide, impassable chasm until Jesus paid the price for our sin at the cross. That is when Christ led the captivity in Paradise to freedom in Heaven (Ephesians 4:8). He descended into this place before He rose again and brought Abraham and all of the Old Testament saints to Heaven. Now that Christ has died for us and risen from the dead, all Christians go right to Heaven when they die and non-Christians go to Sheol until the final “White Throne Judgment” spoken of in Revelation 20.

Other questions have arisen because some Christians in the past believed in something called “soul sleep.” But, that was an erroneous teaching based on a misunderstanding of Scripture. Sometimes in the Bible, “asleep” is used as another way of saying a person is dead. Those who have “fallen asleep” in Christ are just Christians who have died and gone to be with the Lord. So, it has nothing to do with a sleeping soul in the grave because all Christians go to be with the Lord immediately when they die.

Paul used these words in 1 Thessalonians when he wanted to clear up some confusion and misunderstanding about the rapture and how living and dead Christians alike are effected by this event. There were some believers that thought that their friends who were Christians and had died were going to miss out because they had died and the rapture hadn't taken place yet. To them, Paul said,

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep (your Christian brothers and sisters who have died), 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 (who have died) in Jesus (with faith in Jesus) (1 Thess 4:13-14).”

Paul continues in verses 15 through 18, “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.”

He's telling them that those Christians that had died are with Jesus and He will bring them back with Him when He returns at the rapture.

A few months later these same Thessalonian believers needed some clarification on a related subject. They were confused about when the rapture takes place in relation to the seven year Tribulation period. They were rightly expecting Jesus’ imminent return for the Church at the rapture before the Tribulation, like we are today, but thought they had been mistaken and missed it somehow. We know this because in 2 Thessalonians it says that some people wrongly told them that the Day of the Lord had already begun. They had forgotten that Paul had taught them that the rapture takes place before the Day of the Lord, the final seven year Tribulation on the earth (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7). The folks that had taught them that the Tribulation had already begun were incorrect. Unfortunately, some Christians still erroneously teach that the rapture happens sometime after the Day of the Lord begins.

In teaching about the rapture, Paul is explaining that before the second coming of Christ to establish His Kingdom after the Tribulation period, He first returns for His Church to rescue her from this great time of judgment on the earth. This catching away of the Church is called the rapture. The church on earth at that time will be “caught up” (harpazo in Greek, rapturos in Latin) in the air with the Lord to meet those Christians who have already died and who are already with Jesus. Paul speaks of the rapture of the church again in 1 Cor. 15:51-53:

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep (die), but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”

At the time of the rapture, those Christians that are alive will go to meet all of the believers that have ever lived, and will be with Jesus in Heaven. At some point soon after the departure of the church from the planet, the earth is going to go through it's last seven year period before Jesus’ second coming. This period is called the Great Tribulation (aka, the Day of the Lord or the Day of Jacob's Trouble in the OT). Revelation 4 and 5 give us a picture of what the Church is doing in Heaven at that time! Then the entire Church returns with Christ at His second coming, which is immediately after the end of the Tribulation period. Christ's eternal kingdom will be established, first with the Millennial reign of Christ (the thousand year reign), and then with the New Heaven and New Earth at the end of the thousand years. All of this is described in the last three chapters of Revelation.

“Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints (Jude 14).” This statement by Jude is describing the second coming of Christ with His church. The rapture happens first, but no one knows the day or the hour of this event, so we are to be ready at any time (Luke 12:35-46). Are you ready? Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior and your Lord? If you have, you are filled with the joy of the Lord, and the hope of His coming and His glory. If you have not, just turn from your sin now and place your faith in Christ, receiving the free gift of eternal life that is only given through Him. Not just an everlasting life, but a life of true satisfaction and joy as we learn to walk in step with our loving and faithful Creator.