Monthly Archives: April 2017

In the Twinkling of an Eye

Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

For several years now, but more so lately, the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ, occupies my mind almost constantly – hopefully not to the point that I am so heavenly minded that I am no earthly good. As a matter of fact, the prospect incites a sense of urgency within me to share, or better, to warn, the lost around me, especially my loved ones, of the menacing peril that looms ahead for those left behind when Jesus returns for His Bride, the Church. Anyone rejecting Christ, whether by choice or by ignorance, faces seven years of unimaginable horror on earth, until Jesus returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to claim His Kingdom on earth for 1000 years (Revelation 20). During that awful period of seven years, people will still have the opportunity to repent and follow Jesus, but they may have to pay for that choice with their lives.

For believers who share my anticipation, I wonder what our call to “come up hither” (Revelation 4:1) will be like? In the starting verse above, the Apostle Paul says that we, if we are not “asleep,” will “be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).  The Greek word translated moment is atomos, from which we get our English word “atom,” and it signifies the smallest, indivisible amount of time. Paul further defines the “moment” as “the twinkling of an eye.” The twinkling of an eye is faster than “the blink of an eye” which is 100-400 milliseconds.[1] I read somewhere that the “twinkling of an eye” is the amount of time it takes for light to enter the eye, hit the retina, and reflect back out;[2] it is a ridiculously small amount of time.

Paul tells us this event takes place “at the last trump.” John the Revelator, who enjoyed a “sneak preview” of this future event, said, “the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither” (Revelation 4:1, emphasis mine). Will we hear an actual trumpet call and automatically understand that we are being called home? In another place Paul says that, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, emphasis mine). Will everyone on earth hear the sound? Perhaps they will, but only those for whom the call is intended will understand the meaning. I recall that when Jesus called Paul into service, “the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man,” (Acts 9:7, emphasis mine). In another place Paul says, “they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me” (Acts 22:9, emphasis mine). The connotation here is that, even though they heard the sound, they did not hear the voice with understanding. The communication was intended solely for Paul and no one else. That is what I think will happen at the Last Trump. Those who are His “sheep” will hear and understand the voice of the Shepherd. The rest may hear something, but not know what it is.

When that call comes, “the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, emphasis mine). In the twinkling of an eye, the decayed bodies of all the saints who are “asleep” (i.e., dead) will be reconstituted, and they will burst forth from their graves and take flight to meet Jesus in the air. In that same instant, “we [who are alive] shall all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51); in the twinkling of an eye, our bodies will be transformed from mortal to immortal. Will we feel it? What sensation will we experience? Suddenly all aches and pains will cease. Wrinkled skin will return to the firm supple skin of our youth. Grey hair will return to its former natural vibrancy. Heads of skin will be restored to their former glory – without the dandruff! I imagine myself in front of the mirror checking my “gig line.” I look down to check a button I missed, and when I look back up, I am staring at my 30-year old self with a full head of wavy hair! Then in the next moment, my clothes fall off as I pass right through the roof of my house. I look down and watch my house grow smaller and smaller as I zoom skyward like in a Star Wars movie. I look up and see Jesus standing there in space with open arms to welcome me, and I look around me and see millions of others wearing white robes like mine going the same direction I am traveling – toward Jesus. And no one is old. No one is disfigured. No one is bent, broken, or blemished in any way. All those I see are perfect creations like the first pair God made in the Garden of Eden. It will happen in the twinkling of an eye!

Not everyone on earth will go. Behind will be all those who rejected God’s free gift of salvation to face the horrors of hell on earth for the next seven years. Reader, if you have not asked Jesus to be your Savior, you will be included with those who are left behind. Do not let another day go by without asking Jesus to save you. Invite Him into your heart today. In the twinkling of an eye, that matter will be settled, and you can rest secured in His love. Do it now!

Notes:


[1]  “How Fast Is a Blink of an Eye?” http://sciencing.com/fast-blink-eye-5199669.html/, accessed 04/18/2017.

[2]  Question posted at https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/48664/how-long-would-it-take-for-light-to-go-through-a-human-eyeball-and-back-to-the-o/, accessed 04/18/2017.

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Risen Indeed!

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  (1 Corinthians 15:14)

It has been 1,987 years since Jesus gave His life on the cross and rose again, and many in the world today still deny the fact. This denial began with one of Jesus’ own disciples. “The other disciples therefore said unto him [Thomas], We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25, emphasis mine).

Thomas needed physical evidence in order to believe, and many today still want to see some physical manifestation. They want to see a miracle, experience a “feeling.” or suddenly speak in an unknown language in order to believe. Eight days later, Jesus granted Thomas’ request, but also lovingly reprimanded him for his lack of faith. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine).

For those that demand evidence, God provides abundant evidence, however, “they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matthew 13:13). Let us briefly examine just some of the evidence.

First, there is the evidence of an empty tomb.  No court in the world will try someone for murder without a dead body. Where is Jesus’ body? Where are His bones? Not long ago, an ossuary was found in Jerusalem supposedly having the inscription “Jesus son of Joseph,” but that was soon proven a hoax.[1] Besides that, many fail to understand that “James, Jesus, Joseph, and Mary” were very common names in those days, so the inscriptions prove nothing. However, an inscription found on another ossuary said “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” This may indeed contain the remains of James the brother of Jesus.[2] However, the fact remains that the tomb (and there are several suspected) which temporarily held Jesus’ body remains empty.

No body means no victim, and for this reason many suggest that the crucifixion never really took place. One rumor suggests that the betrayer, Judas, was crucified in Jesus’ place and that Jesus walked away free. Those same people are the ones looking for His bones in ossuaries. Muhammad is buried in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Confucius’ body rests in his home town of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. Buddha’s cremated remains (the “relics”) are distributed among several stupas. Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í faith, is buried in Bahji near Acre, Israel.[3] Two main tombs in Jerusalem compete as the burial place of Christ, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb, but both remain empty.

Second, many eyewitnesses saw Jesus alive the third day after His crucifixion and other times thereafter. The four Gospels report that the women (disciples also) that followed Jesus discovered the empty tomb first (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:1-2, 11-18).  Luke records that Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32). Those two return to report to the eleven (Judas had taken his own life because of the guilt he felt for betraying Jesus), and while they gave their report, Jesus appeared to all of them (Luke 24:33-43). John’s account notes that Thomas missed that first appearance (John 20:19-25). All of this happened on Resurrection Day. The next Sunday, Jesus appeared to them again, but this time Thomas, the doubter, was in the group of disciples (John 20:26-29). Thomas’ doubt transformed into belief, “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:28, emphasis mine).

Jesus had many “disciples” (both men and women) besides the twelve “apostles” composing His core group; so when the Gospel writers talk about disciples, they likely include the many that followed Jesus during His ministry on earth. The word “disciple” literally means “student,” so the number of eyewitnesses went beyond the core group. Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, there were many that could testify to His resurrection. The Apostle Paul asserts “After that, he [the risen Christ] was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6, emphasis mine). At the time of Paul’s writing the letter to the Corinthians, there remained many eyewitness that could attest to the resurrected Lord. The Law says that “at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15), and Jesus had more than 250 times the number of witnesses required by the Law. Paul himself, never having known Jesus during His earthly ministry, met the risen Christ as he traveled toward Damascus to persecute the followers of The Way. Of all the witnesses, he says of himself, “And last of all he [the risen Christ] was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not [worthy] to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9, emphasis mine). Despite the abundance of eyewitness, some hold to the silly notion that all these witnesses experienced mass hallucinations. Seriously? I will not dignify that with a response!

Third is the matter of the radical change in the lives of all of the disciples. Immediately after Jesus’ arrest, they all went into hiding. Mark, probably writing for Peter, remembers Jesus’ arrest: “And they all forsook him, and fled” (Mark 14:50, emphasis mine). Mark probably witnessed this firsthand. Speaking of himself in third person (out of embarrassment I am sure), he says, “And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked” (Mark 14:51-52, emphasis mine). Peter, who boasted, “… If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all” (Mark 14:31, emphasis mine) was the first disassociate himself from Jesus with a verbal denial despite Jesus’ warning. “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matthew 26:34).  Faced with the challenge of making a public declaration of his association with Jesus, Peter succumbed to fear. “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:74-75, emphasis mine).

Shortly after Jesus appeared to them, the disciples maintained a low profile. They met secretly in the Upper Room and evangelism never entered their minds. At first, they must have wondered if they had all experienced a mass hallucination. The Gospels give no indication that Jesus met with them regularly following His resurrection. Indeed, some could not believe their own eyes with those brief encounters. “And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17, emphasis mine). Jesus was alive, but so what! The Jews would kill anyone proclaiming Jesus’ name. Not surprisingly, the disciples wanted to get things back to “normal.” “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3, emphasis mine).

These cowering, fearful men were not likely candidates to “have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) with the message of a risen Christ. Even with their firsthand encounters with the risen Lord, they dared not speak out. These (“To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, emphasis mine)) would not put their lives on the line for the risen Christ whom they, as John put it, “… have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1, emphasis mine). Why would they put their lives on the line for what they knew to be a lie? Yet only fifty days after the Crucifixion, at Pentecost, these same men boldly stood in Jerusalem and proclaimed the risen Savior to every tongue and nation (Acts 2:1-5). The fear of death no longer silenced them. When commanded to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, emphasis mine). What made the difference? They saw and handled the risen Christ, and they experienced His power, the Holy Spirit, indwelling their lives. Christ is risen indeed!

Reader, we cannot see or handle the risen Christ, but we have the empty tomb. We have the written testimony of hundreds of eyewitnesses. Men and women who would rather die than deny what they had witnessed firsthand. We have the continuing witness of the living body of Christ, the Church. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29, emphasis mine). You and I are they “that have not seen.” To us Jesus says, “… be not faithless, but believing.” (John 20:27). Christ is risen indeed. One day, very soon, He will return to reclaim His creation as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Be sure you are ready to meet Him.

Notes:


[1]  “Jesus’ tomb story: Does the evidence add up?” (http://www.icr.org/article/1063/386), accessed 04/14/2017.

[2]  Jackson, Wayne. “The Jesus Ossuary Inscription.” ChristianCourier.com. Access date: April 14, 2017. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/578-jesus-ossuary-inscription-the, accessed 04/14/2017.

[3]  “Burial places of founders of world religions,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burial_places_of_founders_of_world_religions, accessed 04/14/2017.

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The King Is Coming!

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. (Zechariah 9:9)

Around 1,987 years ago on a Sunday afternoon (Mark 11:11), Jesus rode into Jerusalem as prophesied by the prophet Zechariah. The Gospel writer, Matthew, quotes Zachariah in part, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass” (Matthew 21:5, emphasis mine). Matthew conspicuously omits Zachariah’s description of the coming King as “just, and having salvation.” Why the omission? Matthew Henry comments on Zachariah 9:9:

“He is a righteous ruler; all his acts of government will be exactly according to the rules of equity, for he is just. 2. He is a powerful protector to all those that bear faith and true allegiance to him, for he has salvation; he has it in his power; he has it to bestow upon all his subjects. He is the God of salvation; treasures of salvation are in him. He is servatussaving himself (so some read it), rising out of the grave by his own power and so qualifying himself to be our Saviour.”[1] (Emphasis mine)

Perhaps Matthew’s omission (as directed by the Holy Spirit) was purposeful. Granted, Matthew wrote after the fact from a vantage point of hindsight, yet the omission retained the prophetic formula of immediate and future fulfillment. Jesus did something similar when He applied Isaiah’s prophecy to Himself. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). He deliberately omitted the remainder of Isaiah’s prophecy: “and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (Isaiah 61:1-2).  Jesus fulfilled the first part of Isaiah’s prophecy at His first coming; “the day of vengeance of our God” will be fulfilled at His second coming when He will set up His millennial kingdom and “comfort all that mourn.”

In the same way, Jesus entered into Jerusalem as the coming King, “lowly [meek], and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). In a matter of days, the adoring crowd crying, “Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13) would turn into a raging mob shouting, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him … We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). They took the King and nailed Him to a cross.

Three days later, He conquered death and once again walked on earth. After forty days (Acts 1:3), He ascended to His throne having “purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). However, He is not done. There remains prophecy yet unfulfilled. Many still mourn. Injustice still reigns. The Lord has not executed His vengeance and His creation still needs salvation. There is yet more to come.

The prophets spoke of God reigning on the earth. His Messiah will rule the world from the throne of David in Jerusalem. Jesus promised to return. “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3, emphasis mine). This same Gospel writer was granted the great privilege of seeing things to come. “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God … And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God … And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:1, 11-13, 15-16, emphasis mine).

He will once again enter the gates of Jerusalem, this time on a white horse as a conquering king. “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:4, emphasis mine). What an awesome sight to behold!

Lately, I have been hearing many modern prophets suggesting that this year, 2017, will be the year that Christ will return to rescue His people from “the wrath of God” that is to come upon the earth. Their reasoning, from a biblical standpoint, is sound. All the ones I listen to are quick to issue the disclaimer that they are not setting dates. Jesus clearly stated, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36); so I respect that note of caution by these prognosticators. However, I sense, because of what I observe happening all around the world, that what they are predicting may be true. For the Church, the return of Christ has always been imminent, but it is truer today than ever before in the history of the Church. The King is coming! Jesus is coming very soon. Personally, I am looking for and anxiously awaiting His return.

Reader, you will meet Jesus very soon. The best way to meet Him is to be one of His own. Very soon, Jesus will return for His Bride, the Church, the collective body of all who have placed their trust in Him. When that day comes, all the powers of hell will be unleashed upon the world. No place will escape or be immune. You will still have the opportunity to repent when that time comes, but you will suffer tremendously for it. Why not give your life to Jesus now and avoid the horrors that are to come. All you need to do is confess your sin and recognize your need for Him. Ask Him to save you. Invite Him into your heart. Give Him first place in your life; make Him the Lord (the “Boss”) of your life, and trust that He will keep His promise. The King is coming, but this time He will not be meek and lowly. Are you ready to meet Him?

Notes:


[1] Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, note on Zechariah 9:9.

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The Devils Believe!

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19)

I do not run into many Christians these days except at church or at the Christian ministry where I work. Oh, I am certain that they are out there, and it is possible that I encounter them everywhere I go; I just cannot tell them apart from non-Christians. A recent Barna study[1] on the state of the Church in America revealed that while 75% of Americans pray to God, 35% attend a church service, 34% read the Bible, 19% volunteer at a non-profit, 18% volunteer at church, 17% attend adult Sunday school and 16% attend small group.

Judging from those statistics, it seems that at least ¾ of Americans acknowledge God. The 35% and 34% that attend church and read their Bible are pretty much the same group of people, so if we subtract them from the 75% who say they pray to God, that leaves 40% who acknowledge God, but there it ends. Just knowing about God or tacitly acknowledging Him gains no one entry into heaven.

James was brutally direct when he says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). Imagine that! The devils believe, and yet their destiny is sealed. To those who think that “knowing” God and “being good” should be sufficient, “Then shall he [Jesus] say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41, emphasis mine). “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10, emphasis mine).

The devil knows God better than any of us here on earth. The Book of Job records that Satan has direct access to God. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them” (Job 1:6, emphasis mine). The devil is an eyewitness to God’s creative power. In responding to Job’s questions, God replies, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7, emphasis mine). The “morning stars” are the “sons of God” (bene elohim), and they are the whole host of created angelic beings including Satan and all of his angels (demons). They witnessed God’s power in creation. As humans, we benefit from all that God has created, and we marvel at the incredible design in all that He has made; but no one saw Him do it – not even Adam and Eve. However, Satan and all of his demons were eye witnesses to God’s awesome power.

The devils believe, and they “tremble” before God. The Greek word translated “tremble” is phrissō, and it means to “bristle”, to “chill”, or to “shudder.” In other words, in the presence of God, they get goose bumps, their hair stands on end, and they shiver in fear. Jesus illustrated this fact when He confronted a “Legion” of them who had taken possession of a man. “And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29, emphasis mine). They know Him, and they know His power. They also know what awaits them in the end. However, no matter how intimately they “know” God, their knowledge does not alter their status. They are doomed to hell.

Reader, do you know God? Do you believe that He exists? Do you even toss a prayer up to Him now and then? Perhaps you even “say grace” before you eat: “God is good. God is great. Let us thank Him for this food. Amen.” Maybe you even visit church from time to time – especially on Christmas and Easter. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). If that is all you have, you are in the same company with the devils, and their destiny is your destiny. However, while their destiny is fixed, you have a way out. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine). “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, emphasis mine).

“Believing in Him” means more than simply “knowing” about Him. Knowing God will not help the devils, because, while they acknowledge God as God, they do not “submit” to Him as Lord. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandmentsHe that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:15, 21, emphasis mine). The context within which James exposes the “belief” of the devils, he discusses how “true faith” (belief) is expressed. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works … But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18, 20, emphasis mine). True faith is demonstrated in a tangible ways, not for show nor under duress, nor as a sense of obligation, but out of a sincere love for the Savior, Jesus. Remember, the devils believe, but they are still bound for hell.

Notes:


[1] “The State of the Church 2016” https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/ – accessed 03/31/2017.

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